Painting Class at Ox-Bow —MAV

I’m starting to think back on summer and take stock. What did I accomplish? What didn’t I accomplish? What did I love about this summer? What didn’t I love? What was this summer all about? I talked a little bit about it a few weeks ago but today I wanted to share a specific summer memory that I will never forget. I hope this little dispatch inspires even one of you to try something new. I did and it was so very awesome …

In late July/early August I took a short painting workshop at Ox-Bow with one of my besties. Now listen, I don’t paint. Oh, sure, I can swash around watercolors and use markers to doodle this or that but I don’t paint! In art school I never even took a painting class! I was just too scared. When we decided to take this workshop, I was pretty nervous. The first day was like the first day of school for me … heart beating fast, sick feeling in my stomach. At one point I thought of asking my friend, “do we have to do it? Let’s just skip the class all together and sit on the beach all week!”

The class was small and full of very interesting characters; the teacher couldn’t have been nicer. From the moment he started talking I allowed myself a bit of time to settle in. I felt, somehow, after the first handful of minutes, ready to give it a go. Maybe it was the combination of being with one of my best friends, being outside in an environment I loved, and trying something new, but whatever it was, I was shocked by how open I felt, so, I dove in. After working for about an hour on my very first painting, I was hating it. I hated my painting so much!

The teacher came over to me as I was about to tear off the page and throw it out and he was very encouraging. “The best thing about gouache,” he said, was that you could “paint over it.” “You don’t need to feel like you are in love with the first strokes you put on the paper.” Okay, okay, breathe, MAV. I decided in that moment not to throw my painting out but to work on it. I needed to work it … let the paint dry and paint over it. Try holding the brush a different way … try mixing in less water making the paint more opaque (something wondering about gouache, by the way). I stuck with it that first day.

That first day set the tone for the whole week. Sure, I didn’t love everything I made. In fact, I didn’t love much of it, but I did try! I was there, for a week, focused solely on something new. I worked hard in a different kind of way. I was around other people who were “better” than I was and who really were more experienced. It was not intimidating to be around them, but rather, inspiring. I opened up and let the fear come in. I paused and decided I was going to go in another direction. I headed away from the fear and decided to just think about it as, well, fun!

I hope to be back at Ox-Bow next year. I won’t be doing a photography workshop or a dying workshop. Those are things that I feel comfortable with … those are safe places for me. Instead, I will look for a chance to scare the shit out of myself. Turns out I kind of like that feeling. Turns out it’s kind of fun! Who knew?!

All photographs were shot on film at Ox-bow in Saugatuck, Michigan.